When riding long distances, either solo or with groups of people, it is obviously necessary to carry a first-aid kit in case of a crash or other injury. What are the most important items to pack, while still considering weight or space? What items can be included in 'travel-size', and which items should be 'full-size'? What items should definitely be left at home?
I bring enough to dress small cuts and stop bleeding, at least until 911 could get to me. If you're riding in areas you might not be able to be reached by emergency services, or if you have particular medical issues that need specialty supplies, a kit like this would insufficient.
- Bandages/band-aids of a few different sizes
- Gauze -- usually a small roll
- Tape -- small roll, enough to tape a skinned knee and a little more
- Small tube of antibacterial gel (like neosporin)
See GaryW's comment, below, liquid may (or may not) be more appropriate
- Advil -- I usually have this in my handebar bag anyway
- Alcohol wipes -- one or two individually-wrapped
Other things you might consider are snappable heat packs, a knee brace, and something to put on bug bites or poison ivy for rides in the woods. If you're allergic to bee stings, you might bring something for that.
A cell-phone, possibly one that's specifically adapted to the purpose:
- Switched off most of the time (so that its battery doesn't run down)
- Therefore it's a spare (not your usual cell-phone which you're actualy using and running down)
- Perhaps with a pay-as-you-go subscription (because pay-by-the-month isn't worthwhile if you're not using it; or, emergency/911 calls might work (you'd better ask) even if the subscription has ellapsed)
- Perhaps unusually simple and robust (to survive accidents), or shielded/padded (e.g. inside a first aid kit's hard shell)
I would substitute the tape and roll of gauze for a small ace bandage and a few gauze pads. You'll be able to treat the same injuries as you would with the tape and gauze roll but with the added benefit of the ace bandage to use as a brace. If you wreck and jam your wrist or you have a knee that starts acting up an ace bandage will let you keep riding. I carry Betadine instead of a gel based antibiotic, it helps the gauze stay put and can make it's way deeper into a cut. I'd also throw in a few safety pins, good for gear repair and digging out splinters.
... it depends on your activity. Long-distance can mean so many things such as random touring, rescue ops or challenging sport. I use standard first aid kits and mix them with some prescription drugs, such as stress-relieving hormones, and essential vitamins, such as B12-vitamin in tube.
My smallest first-aid kit is a small container that holds master link and some very useful medicine, very hard to notice (carrying always). You can hook it to anything like clothes or bags: small, unnoticeable and easy-to-carry. Cortisone and allergy stuff. You can get the containers here and here. I also use the red kit with bandages, scissors and an extra B12-vitamin tube to heal sore skin, cannot stress enough the importance of the last thing particularly if you are a male rider.
Then again my long-distance first-aid kit is much larger. Epinephrine, heat-blanket, resuscitation face shield, wound compress, plastic gloves, pain relieving gel, --. Some extra stuff are small saw chain, magnesium lighter, mosquito web and extra reflection vest. The picture contain some of my first aid kits. There are actually three kits in the same picture. The blue one is something I rarely need. The red one is something I carry very often, stuff at the bottom. The upper stuff is for very serious accidents, actually the yellow thing, epinephrine, at the bottom should be there. Other answers cover mostly my red first aid kit. I use the other kits with my other sport activities mostly dealing with water and camping.
Alert about the prescription drugs mentioned
Do not use the prescription drugs mentioned if you are not instructed to do so, particularly meaning the things such as epinephrine and cortisone. They do have side-effects so you need to know how to use them. I wanted to cover them here because I hope you won't get fooled by very expensively marketed placebo drugs such as "snake tablets" where the affecting agent is cortisone but usually in a very low amount as non-prescription drug.
The hormones work differently. Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, lasts a short time, luckily, the cortisone lasts much longer. The effect of the former is fast and short-lived while the effect of the last is slow and long-lived.
You probably want to take loads of stuff if you are touring from 'Angola to Burkino Faso via the Cameroon' with a whole bunch of people as 'tour guide', however, here is my recommended list for solo tours in 'first world' countries:
- Scalpel blade in sealed pouch.
- Tape to patch oneself up with, inch wide variety suffices.
- Small pouch of cleaning wipes ('Handy Andies').
- Aspirin tablets.
- Mobile phone, money and debit card.
- Fleece jacket.
- Pen Knife with tweezers.
The scalpel blade is for tidying up gravel rash, the tape to bandage oneself up with. I keep both of these items in the handlebar bag front pocket for ease of access. Sometimes I get a bit faint if I look at a 'flesh would' and it is helpful to be able to patch up the damage quickly without having to look at it for any longer than needed.
All the other items are 'in stock items' carried anyway. Warm clothing, i.e. the fleece jacket is important for those times when one's body does not do a good job of keeping itself warm. The spare T-shirt can be used for a larger scale bandage, in conjunction with the tape. Water is obviously useful for cleaning oneself up with, as are the cleaning wipes.
Aspirin does have an effect on blood and how quickly it clots, some people may want to take a different headache relieving drug, e.g. paracetamol. I don't have many headaches but I do carry a couple of aspirin tablets in my wallet out of habit.
The Pen Knife is a 'dual use' item for general camping, however, the tweezers have came in handy many times, hence a mention.
Fortunately I have only suffered 'flesh wounds' on tour (and mountain biking). I have yet to use the surgical scalpel blade but it weighs next to nothing so it gets carried. Only the tape is a real necessity, having proven its worth in the field.
I see that the sports-injury brace is cited by others here, I have never needed such an item ever, on the bike or off it.
For my first ever tour I did carry lots of stuff that others thought I should take and I bought into the 'better safe than sorry' risk-averse thinking. Three days in and I dumped off a lot of things that were not necessary and the 'elephant sized' bandages and other silly gubbins had to go. It came down to realistic basics for the first aid supplies - some tape to patch myself up with and the sterile scalpel blade in case of gravel rash problems.